Giuseppe Verdi’s 200th birthday celebration resumes in Southern California this weekend with the three-day Italian Opera Festival at the Soka Performing Arts Center in Aliso Viejo.
The composer's birthday was Oct. 10. On Saturday, the festival at Soka University, an offshoot of the annual Tuscia Operafestival in Viterbo, Italy, will feature a “Viva Verdi!” program that includes overtures and arias from 10 of his works, including “La Traviata,” “Il Trovatore,” “Aida,” “Otello” and Verdi’s “Requiem.” Stefano Vignati, the Tuscia festival’s music director, conducts the Tuscia Operafestival Symphony with reinforcements from the Youth Philharmonic Orchestra, San Diego.
The festival, returning for a second year, isn’t all Verdi, or, for that matter, all-Italian. Moscow-born violinist Maria Solozobova is the soloist and conductor for the opening Friday evening program, “A Night in Venice,” leading the Baroque Chamber Orchestra “Claudio Monteverdi” in Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.”
Vignati resumes the baton for the Sunday afternoon finale, leading the Claudio Monteverdi chamber group in two of Arcangelo Corelli’s “Concerti Grossi” and Bach’s piano concertos Nos. 1 and 3. The pianist is Iranian-born Ramin Bahrami, who got his musical education in Italy after his family fled the Islamist revolution when he was a child.
“Viva Verdi” is also the program title for the Nov. 16-17 birthday bicentennial celebration by the Verdi Chorus of Santa Monica -- which isn’t directly named for the composer but for a long-defunct Italian restaurant in Santa Monica that featured operatic singing and birthed the chorus as part of its regular musical menu.
Artistic director Anne Marie Ketchum will lead a program of excerpts from “Otello,” “La Traviata,” “Aida” and “Il Trovatore” at the First United Methodist Church in Santa Monica. Tickets include a post-concert 200th birthday party hosted by Alan Chapman of KUSC-FM.
L.A. Opera will celebrate the Verdi birth bicentennial with a new production of “Falstaff,” giving six performances Nov. 9 to Dec. 1, with James Conlon conducting. Baritone Roberto Frontali stars as the Shakespearean bon vivant. The orchestra and cast will have a Nov. 26 outing in Costa Mesa, performing a concert version of “Falstaff” at Segerstrom Concert Hall.
The Los Angeles Philharmonic observed the Verdi bicentennial by performing the “Requiem” and a concert version of “Aida” in August at the Hollywood Bowl.